100 Musicians Answer the Same 10 Questions
Part Thirty Two: DJ Ordeal
instigated by dave heaton
Each year I receive at least one oddball, mysterious, and absolutely brilliant record in the mail with the name DJ Ordeal across it. These records - most of them self-released by Ordeal under the label name Sparticus Stargazer - come to me like UFOs from another place and time. They resemble nothing else I've heard from anyone with 'DJ' in his name (of from anyone else, for that matter). That is, he's no dance or hip-hop DJ, more like a curator between the past and the future. He uses reel-to-reel machines and tape recorders and I'm not sure what else to splice together sounds of the past (old film scores and movie dialogue, old jazz records) into haunting and endlessly fascinating audio collages. His music feels absolutely haunted - experience it for yourself by tracking down records like John (Sparticus Stargazer), the Maureen 7" (Johnny Kane), and this year's model, the Edgar Allen Poe-inspired, VB12 collaboration Usher/Guitango/Usherette.
What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
I would say that what excites me most about music is the need, the compulsion to do it. I just get it, I must try out some ideas, play around, experiment. Doing music, sound, noise is part of living to me. So it's a constant and I hope I will always have the drive to create.
What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
I get sad about all the little independent record shops that have closed down because they cannot survive increasing costs. Today, there are many new forums for finding new music – particularly the Internet. But for me, I always prefer going into an actual place, to be surprised by something I would never imagine could be put on a record, to meet fellow enthusiasts, to share and swap stories. And the record shop owners really know so much and their passion has never dimmed. They are disillusioned by lack of trade, but maybe more sad at seeing fewer customers to enthuse with.
What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).
Oh, I'm usually up to something! Music project of the moment is creating this soundscape for a gentleman named Allon who has a magnificent label called Entr'acte (please visit www.entracte.co.uk ). I am very excited about this record, it is like two sides of a coin. One side is more mellow, the other more frenetic. But the underlining Ordeal madness still in check!
What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
In my Granny's bathroom. I wanted to get this really slippery, splishy-sploshy type sound. I put an ancient Dictaphone with this tiny, rather knackered speaker playing as loud as could be from the depths of the bath and miked that up whilst doing some record scratching by the toilet.
In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
I have always lived in bedsits, house shares, now a studio flat. But I don't have masses of space so perhaps this is why I hardly have any music equipment. I get by on very minimal gear – just a few tape decks (reel, tape, dictaphone), some microphones, one or two small musical instruments (from rattling things to a rather cheap casio keyboard!). Oh, and a record player of course. I remember my Dad saying the musical instrument he could play – the record player! Anyhows, I have had to be creative as I am able to be by using just a few things and working with/pushing their limitations!
When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
Well I would not say I write songs as such, but from time to time I might write a ditty that is very personal to me. May be happy, funny, sad, silly. Some words that create a little story. I love standards for that. Think of "Angel Eyes" or "One for My Baby (One More for the Road)" for example. Great stories succinctly put in maybe three minutes. Now that's the standard I would like to reach in songwriting!
As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?
My enthusiasm for music has never dimmed. I hope it never does. I enjoy hearing other people who create music for the same reasons. Even if it is not always my taste I encourage and support their thing. I get sent some interesting CDRs, go to a variety of gigs, but probably don't buy that much new music due to lack of cash to be honest! I get most records from the bargain bin sections these days.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)
Well I love vocalists who really express, really sing with all their heart and soul. I love harmony vocals. Old jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams … Oh, they are poles apart from where I am coming from in terms of music! I may become possessed by a bassline, a vocal refrain, a horn blowing high. So as I get deeper into the whole, phenomenal thing that these singers and their group of musicians do, I am dissecting out little bits and abstracting their collective thing to some other worldly thing. Whilst I am getting down to this and listening back to just a few notes, I appreciate even more the skill of these excellent singers and musicians.
Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
Well my favourite is Ray Charles and I imagine many people have heard something of Ray. A great communicator, a great arranger, a great innovator. Ray has performed so many types of songs and blended so many styles together. I can't say a favourite song or even a favourite album! How? There is a lot of good stuff to choose from …. For today I'll say this live recording of "Come Rain or Come Shine" which I got recently on this Italian label. Its an extended version of the original with some beautiful support from the band. A lovely, sublime performance …. And what a song!
What's the saddest song you've ever heard?
Ooh, I had to think about this. "Ne me quitte pas" is about as sad as it can get, also "Don't ever leave me". Its more than love songs, it is like songs of loss. Those you love that have gone forever. BOO HOO! I would not want to end this interview by getting all maudlin now. I like sad songs, especially the blues. Get down and dark!
To check out the rest of the Q&As, click here.